Prep basketball: Lady Tigers top New Philly

Coming into Saturday afternoon’s East Central Ohio League match up against New Philadelphia at Sutton Gymnasium, Marietta girls basketball coach Mark Hannuksela fully anticipated a close ball game.

All seven of the Lady Quakers games had been decided by seven points or less and five had been settled by less than five points.

Saturday’s matinee lived up to it’s billing as the Lady Tigers rallied from a slow start to edge New Philadelphia 37-32.

The Quakers scored eight of the first nine points in the contest but were outscored by the orange and black 36-24 the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t a pretty win by any means but they are a very tough defensive team,” said Hannuksela of the game that included a second quarter that totaled nine points. “They like to play low scoring, defensive games and it was good to find a way to get the win.”

Trailing 8-1 midway through the opening period, the Lady Tigers quickly closed the gap on a rebound and score by Alle Moore and a three-point play from Starr Johnson before Lain Weppler gave them their first lead of the game with a triple from the right wing. Tori Moreland’s bucket gave the lead back to the Quakers but Weppler scored the next four points on a short jumper and a steal that resulted in an easy lay up to give MHS a 13-10 lead.

Johnson and New Philly point guard Jaida Carter traded field goals to end the first eight minutes with Marietta in front by a 15-12 count.

Watching the paint dry on the new addition built onto Sutton Gymnasium may have been more exciting than the second quarter as New Philadelphia deliberately slowed the pace of the game down to a crawl in an apparent strategy to limit the possessions in the game.

The Tigers managed only a Weppler field goal to open the quarter and a free throw by Moore to end it while the Quakers scored six points in between to send the game to intermission in an 18-18 tie.

The pace of the game picked up slightly in the third quarter as New Philadelphia out scored the Tigers 8-7 to send the game to the final eight minutes with the Quakers in front 26-25.

Tiger junior Taylor Smith drilled a big three-ball to open the final quarter but Carter made good on two-of-four free throw shots to tie the game once again at 28-28.

MHS regained the lead for good on a beautiful pass from Smith to Johnson who cashed in on the bunny.

Hannuksela felt that Johnson’s play as the sixth girl on the Tiger roster has been a huge reason for their early season success.

“She (Johnson) could very well be a starter for us as I feel we have at least six starters on this team,” said Hannuksela, who returned to coach the Lady Tigers this season after a several year hiatus. “She came up with some big points and big rebounds for us today when we needed them the most.” The Tigers struggled mightily at the free throw line as they made just 13-of-24 in the game including a stretch in the final four minutes when they missed four in a row.

Lauren Martin put an end to that streak by converting on a pair of free throws to increase the Tiger lead to five with a minute to play and after Moreland banked in a three-pointer from well behind the arc, Marietta made of four-of-six freebies down the stretch to secure a big conference win.

Weppler’s 14 points paced the Tigers while Moore and Johnson finished with eight and seven points respectively.

Carter and Moreland each tossed in 10 points apiece to pace the Quakers who slipped to 4-4 with the loss.

The Lady Tigers, who improved to 5-3 on the season and 3-2 in conference play, will host the Morgan Lady Raiders tonight in a non-conference game and Hannuksela is pleased with the direction his team is heading in.

“Its good to find a way to win on a day where you don’t play your best basketball,” said Hannuksela. “We just have to keep improving each game and we will be alright.”